No 'Pooper' blueprint for Waratahs

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson is unlikely to be looking at any 'Pooper' style structures at NSW this year, despite a glut of openside talent.

Waratahs and Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has a mortgage on the seven spot going into the season, having barely missed a minute in his five seasons at NSW, a situation that makes the competition even more fierce for the next level.

Rookie Waratah Will Miller has starred for Norths in recent Shute Shield seasons at openside flanker, before signing with NSW this season, sitting behind Hooper in the pecking order.

He's far from the only one pushing for a spot at seven, with plenty of backrowers returning from injury for the Waratahs this year, including youngster Brad Wilkin, who has struggled with long-term layoffs since moving to Sydney.Will Miller's hard nosed style has drawn plaudits. Photo: Getty ImagesDespite the number of seven options, Gibson said the Waratahs would most likely be going for a more traditional backrow structure.

"Not really (looking at dual opensides)," he said.

"Obviously, we've got a numebr of guys who are auditioning for that openside spot.

"Will Miller - very experienced Shute Shield player, very promising and this is his first real taste of full-time professional environment and you can see the real benefits he's getting from that.

"And then Brad Wilkin who's been tirelessly been working away - had two ACL reconstructions and shoulder reconstructions and he's really working himself back into reckoning as well and then I look at back row and Jed Holloway who we haven't seen will be playing on Thursday (against the Rebels) and Michael Wells.Daryl Gibson has a selection headache in the backrow. Photo: Getty Images"I really want to make sure they're competing hard for those spots."

Waratahs fans will have their first real look at what might be the Waratahs top-line starters when they line up at Brookvale Oval on Thursday, with both sides expected to roll out their stars.

Cam Clark and Nick Phipps are the main injury concerns for the Waratahs ahead of that trial, with Ned Hanigan also being closely monitored after re-aggravating his knee injury the Waratahs' opening trial against the Highlanders.

Clark picked up a hamstring strain at the Brisbane Tens, in his first matches back from a shoulder reconstruction, while Phipps hurt his calf in training.

Lock Rob Simmons is also in doubt, with the impending arrival of his first child, due on Thursday as well.

The Waratahs take on the Stormers in their opening Super Rugby match, on Saturday February 24, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT. Buy tickets here.